How to Maximize Recovery After a Workout?

Like most wrestlers, you likely work out on consecutive days. What you eat after a hard workout is actually more important than what you eat before. Rigorous practice takes a toll on the body, and fluid and important nutrients are lost. It is critical to maximize recovery during and after a workout. In fact, many athletes focus solely on recovery after practice.

According to Dr. Susan Crawford, there are four main phases of recovery:

  1. Recovery during hard exercise.
  2. Recovery immediately after hard exercise.
  3. Recovery the day after hard exercise.
  4. Recovery on a daily basis.

Phase 1: Recovery During Exercise
During practice, recovery priorities are to stay well hydrated with water and to ensure carbohydrate stores are topped up. As I mentioned in the previous questions, aim for to a cup of water every fifteen to twenty minutes during exercise and 25 to 50 grams of carbohydrate per hour after the first hour of exercise. For exercise beyond ninety minutes, aim for .5 to 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per hour. A sports drink supplying less than 19.5 milligrams of potassium per 100-millilitre portion is adequate to replace electrolyte losses in exercise sessions lasting more than ninety minutes. If your workout lasts an hour or less, water is adequate.

Phase 2: Recovery Immediately After Hard Exercise
Immediately after your practice, the top priority is to rehydrate. Plan to drink 4 cups of water for every 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of weight lost during the exercise session. Second, refuel with carbohydrates. Aim for 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrate food or beverages in the first sixty minutes after practice. The sooner these carbohydrates are consumed the better. Good choices include a bagel and juice, carrot sticks and pretzels or raisins and juice. If solid food doesn't appeal to you immediately after your workout, look for liquid sources of carbohydrate like a sports drink or recovery beverage. More specifically, a post-exercise snack that contains 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein will enhance the uptake of glycogen (energy) by the muscles. Commercial recovery products often supply this ratio, or you could have yogurt or a carbohydrate-protein drink. If you have been exercising in the heat for more than about three to four hours and have sweat excessively, you will need to consider replacing sodium and potassium. About 500 milligrams of sodium and 300 milligrams of potassium are lost in 3 pounds (1.5 kilograms) of sweat. Recovering these nutrients from food and beverages is a better strategy than taking pills, which can be too concentrated and irritate the stomach lining.

Phase 3: Recovery the Day After Hard Exercise
As per Phase 2, emphasize water and carbohydrate fuel. Aim for 7 to 10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per day. Additionally, emphasize quality protein foods such as soy, tofu, legumes, chicken, eggs or lean beef. Healthy foods high in potassium and sodium such as tomato juice, squash, melons, a baked potato, citrus fruits and bananas would also be good to emphasize the day after a hard workout.

Phase 4: Recovery on a Daily Basis
When you work out on a regular basis, recovery is an ongoing process. Follow the 80-20 rule and ensure you are making quality choices in your meals and snacks. Ongoing hydration is also a good plan.

Action Tip
Plan to eat or drink some carbohydrate calories in the first thirty minutes after workout to promote muscle recovery.

The Bottom Line
Although you need top-notch fuel in your system prior to practice, how well you feel the day after a hard workout can be influenced by your choices in the recovery period.

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About The Author
Susan Crawford is a well-respected sports nutritionist and professor at Simon Fraser University.


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